Changing over to summer

Its a true sign of spring in Ottawa




Time to change from winter treads to summer skins.

I have the tools, the time and I enjoy working on machines.

Each wheel is the same process:

Safety First: Put on the parking brake and insert some sort of wheel chocks – I use pieces of 2 x 4’s – on a wheel that is fully grounded. I move the chocks as needed.

Then while the car is still fully resting on the floor – break the tension on each lug nut of the wheel you’re working on by loosening it 1/2 turn with the 4 way lug wrench. Those lug wrenches provided with the car are horrible….they don’t provide the direct connection on the lug nut with the orthogonal angle of torque force needed. I keep a folding 4 way lug wrench in my cars…….they’re only $10 or so and can save you when you need it.

Jack up that corner of the car with the floor jack and insert the safety jack….I’ve heard the horror stories of cars falling off the lifting jack and I try my best to remember safety first. Note: its very important that your jacking point under the car is correct.  Most cars are uni-body construction and you can find yourself just folding metal if you choose the wrong spot. Or the car could fall down. Check the Owner’s Manual to be sure.

Loosen and remove all the lug nuts (pile within reach neatly….you’ll need them again soon) leaving the top nut to the last. It holds the wheel on so it doesn’t fall off unexpectedly. Remove the top nut and lift the winter wheel off. Oofff. They are a bit heavy.

Inspect the brakes pads and rotors for wear. Remove the rubber cover on the bleed valve nipple and check there is no brake fluid leakage. Replace rubber cover.

Ensure you have the right summer wheel for replacement. If you look carefully in the pic you can see I tie a plastic piece marking the wheel….in this case RF (Right Front) onto the wheel  so I know what corner each comes off of and goes back onto. I’ve tried to use a grease marker on the tire but they can get rubbed off in handling so I tie on a marked piece of plastic to be sure.

Wheel rotation is a whole subject in itself. I rotate front to back according to the tire wear as I see it. At some point you may need to rebalance the wheels and that’s a garage job for sure.

Lift the summer wheel onto the lug stems and jam your foot gently on the bottom of the wheel while also pushing gently on the top of the wheel with one hand to hold it in place. That leaves one hand free to grab a nut and spin it onto the upper most lug stem; that holds the wheel in place.

Spin on the rest of the lug nuts and tighten lightly, using a cross pattern, don’t just go round the lugs. REMOVE THE SAFETY JACK BEFORE LOWERING THE FLOOR JACK. Experience speaking.

When the wheel is on the floor do the final tightening, using a cross pattern, with a torque wrench. Duke gave me a beautiful 1/2 inch torque wrench for a past birthday present and I use it regularly. My web research shows the lug nuts should be torqued to about 88 foot pounds. Garages often use air guns that are set way too high and if you have a flat on the road you may not be able to break the lug nuts free. Or the extraordinary tension may break the lug stem off. I’ve seen it.

Do all four corners. Then I drive the car around for a couple of miles weaving and braking hard to stress the lug nut connections. Then I park in the driveway and re-torque all the nuts to make sure.

Pat’s Mazda 3 is a 2005 and just this winter it has started to rust horribly. Looks like I have some body work to do. Lesson:  if you live in Ottawa get your car rust proofed as soon as you get it and renew the rust proofing from time to time.

Overall….only takes about 90 minutes, some of which is carrying the wheels to and from their storage spot; its straight forward work. Yes, I could have a garage do it for $50 or so …. but I can do it myself and I like the concepts of thrift and self sufficiency.

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